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Instant Analysis: Pirates 4, Nats 2

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Instant Analysis: Pirates 4, Nats 2

Game in a nutshell: Presented with a golden opportunity after Erik Bedard departed with back spasms only eight pitches into the game, the Nationals' woebegone lineup still foundered against the Pirates bullpen. Xavier Nady and Chad Tracy each drove in a run, but otherwise the lineup was shut down by five Pittsburgh relievers. Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, gave up three runs in the fourth, and that was enough damage to deal the young left-hander his second loss. Joel Hanrahan stranded the tying runner on base in the ninth, getting Bryce Harper to pop out and striking out Ryan Zimmerman to end the game. The result: The Nationals will lose only the second of 10 series they've played this year.
Hitting lowlight: Pretty easy to pick this one. Top of the eighth. Bases loaded. One out. Trailing by one run. All the Nats needed was a base hit. Or really, just a fly ball that would have scored the tying run. Instead, Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel each struck out hacking at fastballs from reliever Jason Grilli. Espinosa flailed away at a 3-2 pitch for his NL-leading 39th strikeout of the year. Ankiel then took a huge cut at a 1-2 fastball at his eyelids. Inning over. Rally killed.
Pitching lowlight: As well as he's pitched, Detwiler does have a tendency to let one mistake balloon into a bad inning. Such was the case in the bottom of the third, an inning that began with opposing pitcher Brad Lincoln striking out but reaching on a wild pitch. Detwiler proceeded to give up hits to three of the next four batters he faced, giving up three runs in the process. Those were the only three runs he surrendered the entire night, but they were enough leave the left-hander in line to take the loss.
Key stat: Espinosa's struggles extend far back. Over his last 92 games, he's totaled a scant 13 RBI.
Up next: Stephen Strasburg faces the Pirates for the first time since his 14-strikeout, major-league debut in 2010, this time trying to avoid a stunning sweep. He'll face fellow San Diego native Kevin Correia in Thursday's 7:05 p.m. series finale at PNC Park.

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This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year